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Putin invites Netanyahu, Abbas to World Cup final




Netanyahu is considering attending the 15 July game if Israeli security requirements can be met, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Earlier, Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub announced that Abbas would travel to Russia for the game, and would also meet Putin. He told the official Palestinian Authority news outlet Wafa that the two leaders would discuss “bilateral relations and the latest political developments”.

Putin has reportedly invited other world leaders to the World Cup final, which will be held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

There was no indication that Netanyahu and Abbas would meet while in the Russian capital, but Putin has previously tried to host talks between them.

Netanyahu and Abbas have not met for substantive talks since 2010, and regional peace efforts have continued to falter since a United States-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

When Putin invited Netanyahu and Abbas for talks in 2016, both leaders expressed a willingness to meet each other face-to-face, but Moscow’s efforts to broker the meeting became bogged down in mutual accusations that the other side was unwilling to negotiate.

Reports of a possible Netanyahu-Abbas meeting come amid a US push to jumpstart a regional peace plan that has been blackballed by the Palestinian Authority amid anger over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and his decision to move the US embassy there in May.

Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner and US President Donald Trump’s Mideast Peace Envoy, Jason Greenblatt, toured the region last week, but did not meet any Ramallah officials. The Palestinians refused to meet the Trump officials, and the authority’s leaders have criticised the Trump negotiating team in recent days.

The pro-Netanyahu daily, Israel Hayom, late last Sunday claimed that senior officials in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and ‎the United Arab Emirates had indicated to the US team that they were prepared to back the Trump administration peace plan even if the Palestinian Authority rejected it. There was no confirmation of the report, which quoted unnamed sources in Cairo and Amman.

Last Saturday, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Kushner and Greenblatt of trying to topple the Abbas-led government and dismantle the United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees. On Sunday, Erekat doubled down on his criticism, telling Israel’s Channel 10 that the American negotiators were “not neutral”, and predicting that their peace plan would fail.

In response, Kushner appealed directly to Palestinians in an interview published in the Arabic language Al-Quds last weekend, accusing Abbas and the Palestinian leadership of not co-operating with peace efforts.

He alleged that Ramallah was “scared we will release our peace plan, and the Palestinian people will actually like it” because it would offer them a better life.

“The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership, and not seeing many actions that are constructive toward achieving peace,” Kushner said. “There are a lot of sharp statements and condemnations, but no ideas or efforts with prospects of success.”


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